There’s something about Serena Williams and Wimbledon – or perhaps, more specifically, its pristine grass courts. Even though, as she jokingly says, “every time I step on the practice court I'm like,’ I'm going to fall’,” the prolific champion also understands that the All England Club generally brings out her competitive best.
“Once I step on the match court I feel so good. I think it’s just an amazing feeling,” she said. “I just don't know if it's something that's innate that I can't explain. It's something about Wimbledon that I really enjoy and I really love.”
That love affair shows in a stunning record at the All England Club. A four-time champion and runner-up on another two occasions, Serena has progressed to the final 16 or further in all but one of her 11 previous appearances here.
Coming off the worst injury of her career at last year’s Championships, where Serena was contesting just her second event after a near-12 month absence following foot surgery and then a serious blood clot, she made a respectable fourth-round exit to Marion Bartoli.
It’s not surprising, then, that when Serena is asked about confidence the former world No.1 and current world No.6 responds with, well, confidence.
“Confidence is really important in anything you do. Especially out here I think if you have a lot of confidence you can play really well,” she pointed out. “I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel confident.”
It’s that attitude that allows Serena to use her recent first round French Open loss to the 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano – her worst performance in 43 Grand Slams – as an added incentive at the 2012 Championships.
“Whether I had won in Paris or lost like I did in the first round, I am always extremely motivated. If anything, you know, I think losing makes me even more motivated,” she said.
It’s a motivation that Serena seems determined to use well into the future, the 30-year-old insisting that neither she nor her similarly-influential sister Venus, who recently turned 32, are considering retirement from tennis in the near future.
“I have no intention of stopping, and I don't think she does either ... I enjoy being out there on the court so much and I've been having so much fun, so it's been great,” she said.
This year, there’s added motivation as the two-time doubles gold medallist eyes her third Olympics in London, which will be staged at the All England Club just three weeks after the 2012 Championships conclude. “As a tennis player you get to play Grand Slams, which you get to play every other week it seems. You don't think about the Olympics. It's just an added bonus,” Serena said.
For now, though, it’s all about Wimbledon and there’s an ominous tone when the four-time champion expands on the passions that she hopes will see her compete well into the future.
“I love the challenge. I love holding up trophies. So I guess if ever I feel that I can't do that, then maybe I won't play anymore,” Serena noted.
“That's what I love. I love stepping out on that court, having that atmosphere, that moment. That moment is all about me. Maybe it's a little selfish, but I love that feeling.”